Taiji Day 281: Dance with Gravity

Ides of December is tomorrow.

In one sense, tai chi is merely a series of dancing experiments with gravity.  Here, let go of earth. There, re-establish contact.  The dance goes back and forth between no contact and all contact.  No contact, of course, is very dangerous — you let go of earth in a jump, but that does not mean gravity doesn’t hold you; it means that you are completely ungrounded… and grounding will usually be rapid, and possibly painful.  It’s not that you avoid pain or trial or challenge in tai chi, it’s just that… well, it’s not a thing desired.  You learn to confront it, perhaps, or deal with it, but you don’t want it.

At the other extreme is rootedness.  This is surprisingly dangerous, too.  You can put both feet on the floor, curl your toes slightly, and lock on to the floor like a gecko.  Sure, you’re immobile, but that comes with limitations.  People have to bring you stuff, and your arms tremble, and sooner or later you’re going to have to move.  No matter how rooted you wish to be, your whole genetics is rooted in motion, and so motion — a state of dancing with the limitations imposed on you by gravity — is going to happen.  Get used to it.

During the golden pheasants, which come about a third of the way into the tai chi form, I stretched out my arms and lifted my right foot above the earth, and spread my hands as I extended my knee to move my foot well away from my body.  Extended, I realized that I looked rather like some of those trees on the savannas of Africa: one thin trunk, and an array of crazy, jumbled branches.  It’s the power of the form, I realized, and I stopped moving.

And I stayed “stopped moving” for a while  How long, exactly, I can’t really say.  A while.  I got to this place, and as John Cage wrote, I had to try trusting it for a while.  Then I started moving around on my trunk, my rooted left foot, until I couldn’t find balance any more.  Both feet on the ground, experiment, stand, be thoroughly grounded.  Fine.

Then begin again… the whole golden pheasant sequence, followed by press-push-single-whip.  And then cloud hands, another dance with gravity.

Those same rules by John Cage opine that life is a series of experiments.  Tai chi allows experiments with gravity.  (so does stone-hanging)  Poetry allows expressions of meaning.

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